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Artist of the Week: The Presidents Of The United States of America.


The band name so long I wont say it twice. For the rest of the article they are either PUSA or The Presidents. I got to admit upfront, growing up these guys were one of my favorite bands of all time. I have their first two albums memorized. So just, full disclosure, I'm a fan.

PUSA was formed in 1993 Seattle by high school friends Chris Ballew and David Dederer. They were not actually formed straight out of high school, unlike many groups. Chris and Dederer had gone their separate ways for quite a while with Chris performing as a street musician in Boston during the 80s and early 90s. Several of the songs that Ballew created with a band in Boston would go on to become Presidents' songs, including Naked and Famous, a bonus track on the band's self titled debut album. All of the quirky music coming out of the town currently in the throws of full on flannel grunge movement is a pretty fun thing to consider.

Presidents is unique in that they do not play standard instruments. Inspired by their friends in Morphine, Chris actually plays a "basitar" a guitar with 2 bass strings which Chris plays bass lines, his typical role in the band. David, i plays Guitbass, a guitar with three bass strings. David typically plays the guitar portions and performs backup vocals to Chris' main vocals. Initially the band performed without a drummer, or with Chris on drums. This instrumentation, along with Chris' unique voice and lyrics, truely make the band stand out from any other band in the 90s, and really since then. Nobody QUITE sounds like PUSA, even without vocals you can recognize them.

The two of them performed many shows under various names before Chris presented themselves as The Presidents Of The United States of America because it was the longest name he could think of at the time. The name stuck and they've used it, or acronyms such as PUSA or Pot USA since then.

It was during one of these shows that future drummer Jason Finn cornered Chris Ballew in a bathroom and begged him to be the drummer for the band. It was after this that PUSA became the full band we know now.

Their demo, Froggystyle, got passed around during their live shows and eventually started making it's rounds among record labels.

In 1995 PUSA would team up with indie label PopLlama to record their self titled debute album. The album quickly garnered attention and was re-released by Sony. The album was a smash thanks to the singles Lump, Peaches, and Kitty. The album went double platinum, now triple, and recieved two grammy nominations. Lump recieved one of the greatest honors a band can get, a weird al parody song, AND video.

In a fun twist, Weird Al would actually direct one of The Presidents music videos in 2008. Seems everyone was a pretty good sport. Not really a surprise that PUSA would be down for something like that, they are a band with a song on their debut album titled "We're Not Going To Make It" all about how much they suck as a band and wont ever be famous.

Chances are, if you were alive in the 90s and listened to any rock and roll radio stations, you heard this song on an endless loop. Peaches is one of the definitive alt-rock 90s songs. Also, how can you hate a song which has a video where the band stops playing to beat up a group of ninjas for no apparent reason?

Now, to be fair, the band has stated that the song takes a couple of riffs from Bad Company's song "Feel Like Makin Love," but they have never denied it.

 The Presidents 2nd album, aptly named II, was well recieved but had no hits on the level of anything off of their first album. It produced minor hits Volcano and Mach 5. It also has a fun song that is an homage to The Brady Bunch, Tiki God.

In 1998, after touring for II, Chris Ballew decided to take a break and spend more time with his family. The band released an album of covers, new songs, and demos around the same time as Chris called it quits for a bit. The album most famously contains their cover of Cleveland Rocks, which was used for The Drew Carey Show's theme song.

The band actually created several songs for movies and TV around that time.

Despite the breakup the band did work on some other projects, including a colloaboration with Sir-Mix-A-Lot known as Subset. The band toured briefly but never released an album. Recently there was new talk of working with him again.

In 2000 the band released a well recieved single, Jupiter, which led to the creation of a new album titled Freaked Out and Small.

In 2004, after an 11 year run with the band, Dederer decided he wanted leave the band. It was an ammicable split, in 2012 Amazon hired Dederer and he actually manages the bands music and programming even though he is still not playing with the band. He was replaced by Andrew McKeag who has remained with the band since then. Dederer worked with Guns 'N Roses briefly after leaving the presidents. I'm not sure if he still plays with anyone. On occasion he does join the band in live shows when they play in Seattle, at least according to wikipedia.

2004 also saw the very important return of the rights to the bands first, and must successful, album. 2007 they released their next project, These Are The Good Times People, which included the Weird Al direct music video, Mixed Up S.O.B., which I posted earlier in this blog. I actually saw them live in a small venue during this tour. Fun show. When they were done they walked backstage, then after a moment, ran out from the door next to the stage and back stage again, waited a little bit again, came out, and played an encore.

In 2008 the band was added to Rock Band 2 with the new song Lady Bug, as well as two tracks from their first album.

In 2009 Chris Ballew started his own solo project as a children's artist under the name Caspar Babypants. The projects include original songs as well as two albums of Beatles covers. He continues to work on this project with new videos released as recently as 2015. 

In 2011 the band worked on a song which some of you might have heard of. Can't Stop (Catchin' Em All) was created and played at Nintendo World for the launch of Pokemon Black and White.

Holy crap that video is kind of weird, and frankly, not very good. The song is catchy, pun intended.

In November 2013 the band held a crowd funding project on Pledge Music to create their next album. The band actually ended up release two albums in February 2014 at the same time. The lve album, Thanks For The Feedback, as well as the crowdfunded project, Kudos To You!.

With a name like they have, it's really not much surprise that they have been entwined closely with politics. The band has performed for Bill Clinton, supported John Kerry, written a song for Barack Obama, and publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders for the 2016 election.

You can hear the song Moving In, about Barack Obama, here.

At the moment Chris Ballew is concentrating on his Caspar Babypants project with a new album, WINTER PARTY!, dropping in about 3 weeks. I'd assume this means there is nothing in the works for Presidents currently.


At this point, I think we can all agree, they did end up making it.


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About Khalid Eternal Nighone of us since 12:52 AM on 06.15.2015

Every time I think I know what I'm doing with my life, I forget.